Ten things we learnt on day one of #WOBISydney

Kathryn Bice - AAP

3 minute read

Ken Segall, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Mohan Sawhney and Arianna Huffington offered some unexpected gems at Wednesday's World Business Forum in Sydney. Here are our top 10.

"There's really no such thing as simplicity. There's the perception of simplicity - and that's what matters."

Ken Segall, former creative director at Apple, says human beings are innately drawn to simplicity, but achieving it can be complex and require an enormous amount of work. Steve Jobs simplified Apple's product offering to avoid the "dark side of choice", but in fact, customers had great freedom to customise their purchases through a wide variety of options.   

"If you can't fit it on one page, you don't understand it yourself."

Ken Segall tinkers with Einstein's famous quote to argue that briefs should be kept brief. Einstein said that if you can't explain it to a six-year-old you don't understand it yourself, and the one-page brief presents managers with a similar challenge.   

 "Use kaleidoscope thinking."

Rosabeth Moss Kanter says a kaleidoscope is just a way of seeing patterns and in the same way you can shake up your thinking, twist it, change direction and watch the same pieces form an entirely different pattern. It's often our view of reality that's stuck, not reality itself.

 "Dream your worst nightmare and then invest in it."

Kanter quotes an entrepreneur friend to make the point that businesses need to avoid getting stuck in silos. You need to think about who all your stakeholders are and work with them right from the beginning.

"Everything can look like a failure in the middle."

The Harvard professor would like this to be known as "Kanter's Law", such is her realistic approach to the bumps that a company will inevitably hit when it takes a new road. You have to hold on to the vision and persist, she says, but be flexible about how you do it. 

"Agile innovation helps us thrive in a state of permanent beta."

Professor Mohan Sawhney champions Agile as a way to move faster, learn cheaper and collaborate better. This is the key to surviving in a VUCA world - an environment shaped by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

 "An agile organisation is nimble, ambidextrous and collaborative."

Ambidextrous means operating two types of enterprise simultaneously, one that is concerned with "exploiting" outcomes from the established business, and a second, parallel group that focuses on "exploring" new opportunities.  

"Use Amazon's two-pizza rule."

Sawhney quotes Jeff Bezos's pizza metric to argue teams should be no bigger than the number of people who can eat two pizzas at a meeting. However, it's worth noting that marketing people tend to eat more than IT people, he says. 

 "Modern science is proving the ancient philosophers were right."

Arianna Huffington launched Thrive Global after suffering a physical collapse during her "full-life" push to launch The Huffington Post. The incident forced her to reconsider her priorities and put wellbeing at the top of the list. "I asked myself what success really is and what a good life is, just like the philosophers did." 

 "Businesses should step in if an employee is bragging about how hard they're working and how little sleep they're getting."

Huffington says managers should look at how the person is doing in their work and at home. you're going to see signs that something is wrong. It's absolutely impossible that that person is doing their best at work and not endangering their health."